Make the most of your mobile data

Android also warns you when you pass a certain data-usage threshold. By default, it’s set at an unhelpfully high 2GB, so most people will never see it, but if you tap the “2.0GB warning” text you can change it to something more useful.

If you’re really allergic to crossing the line, you can also tick “Set mobile data limit” to automatically disable all mobile data communications once you pass a specified monthly threshold. Remember to account for the possibility of your mobile provider thinking you’ve used more data than your phone has recorded.

Windows Phone offers a similar tool, called Data Sense. You’ll find it in the App list: tap the Settings button within the app to set up your monthly billing period and your data limit.

A tickbox lets you “Restrict background data when I’m near my limit” – so that things such as Live Tile updates and email updates are suspended automatically. Data Sense doesn’t alert you when you get close to your limit, but you can pin its tile to your Start screen to see a running total of how much mobile (and wireless) data you’ve used in your current period.

For iPhone and iPad users, iOS 7 keeps a record of your data usage in Settings | Mobile. Within this menu you’ll see a headline total of data used, plus, if you scroll down, a breakdown of how your various apps have contributed to that total. Tap on “System services” to see how much data things such as Siri and Find My iPhone have used.

Unfortunately, iOS 7 has no facility for warning you when your data usage passes a certain threshold.

In fact, it doesn’t keep track of your billing cycle at all: if you want to measure your monthly data usage, you’ll have to come back every month and hit the “Reset statistics” button at the bottom of the Settings page.

You may therefore choose to install a third-party app that provides that function. In addition to the various providers’ own-brand offerings, there are plenty of options in the App Store. One popular choice for iOS is My Data Manager. This lets you set custom alerts – so you can, for example, receive a notification when you’ve used 33% of your data allowance, then again when you hit 66% – so you don’t get any sudden shocks.

The software is available for Android too, but Windows Phone 8 users are left out: the API doesn’t allow a third-party app to monitor other app’s network connections, so it isn’t possible to create a usage-monitoring tool on this platform.

Use Wi-Fi where possible

It’s sensible to try to minimise your data usage, but naturally you don’t want to give up the features and conveniences of your smartphone. The simplest way to reduce your mobile data usage, without changing your habits, is to use Wi-Fi instead wherever possible.

Set up your phone to connect whenever it’s in range – not only at home, but if possible then also at work and at the homes of friends and family members.

It might be going a bit far to insist on logging on every time you visit a café or pub, but if you want to download an attachment, or to spend a quiet ten minutes surfing the web over a cup of coffee, it’s worth checking to see if there’s a wireless network over which you can do it for free.

Also check whether you’re entitled to use paid-for hotspots. BT Broadband customers, for example, receive free access to hundreds of BT hotspots across the country, while a Sky Broadband subscription includes free access to hotspots operated by The Cloud. Londoners should consider signing up for Virgin Media’s Wi-Fi service on the tube: it’s free if you’re with EE, Virgin Mobile, O2 or Vodafone.

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